Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

2018 Houston SCBWI Conference Faculty & Speakers

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Jessica Sinsheimer
inherit”>Agent, Sarah Jane Freymann Literary AgencyJessica Sinsheimer has been reading and campaigning for her favorite queries since 2004. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she went east for Sarah Lawrence College and stayed for the opportunity to read soon-to-be books for a living.Now an agent at the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, she’s known for being open to almost all genres—and for drinking far too much tea. Always on the lookout for new writers, she tends to love humorous picture books, heartfelt middle grade, and smart, dark YA (especially with highbrow sentences and lowbrow content). She’s also open to chapter books and early readers. More diverse characters, please–especially those with power, agency, and happy endings. In her spare time (ha), Jessica runs #MSWL and, the Manuscript Academy podcast, and an online community for writers and agents at You can follow her on Twitter at @JSinsheim.


Lauren Spieller
Associate Literary Agent/TriadaUSLauren Spieller is an Associate Literary Agent at TriadaUS. She has a sharp editorial eye, and is passionate about author advocacy. Lauren is seeking Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction, as well as select Adult fiction and non-fiction. Whatever the age category or genre, Lauren is passionate about finding diverse and underrepresented voices. She is also the author of the YA novel, Your Destination Is on the Left.


Ellen Cormier
Assistant Editor/Dial Books for Young ReadersEllen Cormier Ellen Cormier is an assistant editor at Dial Books for Young Readers, acquiring picture books, middle grade, and YA fiction and nonfiction. Ellen is a graduate of Smith College and the Columbia Publishing Course. Prior to joining Dial in 2014, she was a member of the Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group marketing team, where she had the privilege of working on campaigns for Marissa Meyer and Leigh Bardugo. Ellen is on the lookout for stories that feel like an immersive escape to a fully-realized world—fantastical or not—and introduce readers to characters they want to return to again and again.




Ann Rose
Agent, Prospect AgencyAnn Rose is Prospect Agency’s newest agent, but she isn’t new to publishing. Over the last few years she has been exploring this field by working and mentoring with literary agents in various capacities. Everything she has experienced from editorial work to the magic of finding the perfect match between author and editor has hardened her resolve to join this wonderful profession. Now she’s thrilled to be building her own list and is actively seeking clients ready to grow amazing careers with her. Ann’s perfect manuscript is a character driven story that isn’t afraid to push boundaries. She loves an unlikeable character — even though she is incredibly likeable herself!


Joanna Cardenas 
Editor, Penguin Random House/KokilaJoanna Cardenas is an editor at Kokila, a new imprint of Penguin Random House. She acquires picture books, chapter books, and middle grade (including graphic novels). Among other projects, Joanna edited Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Tim Miller; The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez; and The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya. Joanna is originally from San Diego, California, where she worked as a bookseller. Follow Joanna on Twitter @joannananamc and Pinterest at
Learn more about Kokila here:



Alexandra Arnold
Editor, Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Alex Arnold joined Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s’ Books in 2012. She edits middle grade and YA, and works with critically acclaimed and bestselling authors such as Brittany Cavallaro, Corey Ann Haydu, and Kali Wallace. She is always on the lookout for compelling, diverse voices, characters that could step off the page, strong friendship stories, fresh magical twists, and atmospheric settings that make her feel transported.


Nancy Brennan
Art Director, Viking Children’s BooksNancy Brennan is the Art Director at Viking Childrens’s Books and is celebrating her 17th year with Viking.  During her many years in graphic design she has worked with a diverse range of clients including professional sports teams and Grammy-nominated recording artists. However, her real passion is for children’s books, and at Viking she oversees all facets of the process from commissioning illustrators and art direction to cover and interior design. Nancy’s work can be seen across the entire spectrum of books for young readers including YA, non-fiction, middle grade, board books, and, of course, picture books. She has developed many award-winning books with illustrators including Molly Idle, Juana Medina, Gianna Marino, Divya Srinivasan, E.B. Lewis, and Sophie Blackall. You can see a sampling of her work at Nancy lives in an old house in Brooklyn, surrounded by books, curiosities, and cats.



Kelly Light
Author/IllustratorKelly Light lives in New York but grew up down the shore in New Jersey surrounded by giant pink dinosaurs, cotton candy colors, and Skee-Ball sounds. She was schooled on Saturday-morning cartoons and Sunday funny pages. She picked up a pencil, started drawing, and never stopped. Kelly is the author/Illustrator of the Louise series. Louise Loves Art (Fall 2014) and Louise and Andie, The Art of Friendship (Spring 2016) are the first two books in the series. Kelly has also illustrated Elvis and the Underdogs and Elvis and the Underdogs: Secrets, Secret Service, and Room Service by Jenny Lee, and The Quirks series by Erin Soderberg. 


Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park was born and raised in Illinois. The daughter of Korean immigrants, she has been writing poems and stories since she was four years old. Park was first published when she was nine years old—she was paid one dollar for a haiku that ran in a children’s magazine.   During elementary and high school, Park had several more poems published in magazines for children and young people. She studied English at Stanford University and then she took a job as a public-relations writer for a major oil company. This was not exactly the kind of writing she wanted to do, but it did teach her to present her work professionally and that an interested writer can make any subject fascinating. Somewhere between living in Ireland, England, and the United States; teaching English as a second language and working as a food journalist; and starting a family; Park finally realized that what she really wanted to do was to write books for children. Park lives in upstate New York with her husband, their two children, a dog, a hamster, and eight tadpoles.  For more information on Linda Sue Park, visit her at




Local Faculty

Crystal Allen

Crystal Allen is the author of middle grade novels How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy (Balzar and Bray, 2011) and The Laura Line (Balzar and Bray, 2013), and the Magnificent Mya Tubbs chapter book series, which includes The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown and The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Wall Of Fame Game Crystal lives in Sugar Land, Texas with her husband, Reggie, two sons, Phillip and Joshua, and dog Angel.





Joy Preble

Joy Preble is the author of a medium-long list of young adult novels including the DREAMING ANASTASIA series, the SWEET DEAD LIFE series, and FINDING PARIS, which SLJ called, “An intricate guessing game of sisterly devotion, romance, and quiet desperation.” Her newest novel, IT WASN’T ALWAYS LIKE THIS, was called “epic and addictive” by Beautiful Creatures’ author Kami Garcia and “a suspenseful treat with a gooey romantic center” by the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. In no particular order, Joy is fond of her family, her basset-boxer, clever cocktails, and people who don’t whine. She teaches writing widely, including at Writespace Houston and The Writing Barn, and is also the Children’s Specialist and Buyer at Houston’s Brazos Bookstore. Visit Joy at or follow her on Twitter @joypreble.






Ana Maria Rodriguez

For almost 20 years, Ana María S. Rodríguez has been writing for children and adults about the wonders and mysteries of science and nature, as well as outstanding historical and every day people. Her 26 published nonfiction books and over 80 magazine articles have been recognized as “describing great scientific discoverers in a lively, colorful, and creative manner” (Edward Jenner, Conqueror of Smallpox, Science Books & Films). Of her latest series, Animal Secrets Revealed!, School Library Journal – Series Made Simple, said is “Highly engaging, fascinating animal science for readers.” For more information about her work, Ana’s Science 4 Kids blog, and events, visit her website at





Nikki Loftin

Nikki Loftin is the author of three novels for young readers: Wish Girl, which the New York Times called “a quietly poetic story about psychological truths,” and which was selected as the “Great Read of Texas” for the National Book Festival by the Texas Center for the Book; Nightingale’s Nest, named as “the next great book” by the Children’s Literacy Foundation in 2014, and awarded the best children’s book of 2014 by the Texas Institute of Letters; and The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, winner of the Writer’s League of Texas Book Award 2013. Nikki earned an MA from UT Austin in English/Fiction Writing, and lives in the Hill Country with an assortment of goats, dogs, chickens, cats, and rambunctious boys.



PJ Hoover
www.pjhoover.comPJ. (Tricia) Hoover wanted to be a Jedi, but when that didn’t work out, she became an electrical engineer instead. After a fifteen year bout designing computer chips for a living, P. J. decided to start creating worlds of her own. She’s the author of Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life, featuring a fourteen-year-old King Tut who’s stuck in middle school, and Solstice, a super-hot twist on the Hades/Persephone myth. When not writing, P. J. spends time with her husband and two kids and enjoys practicing kung fu, solving Rubik’s cubes, watching Star Trek, and playing too many video games. For more information about P. J. (Tricia) Hoover, please visit her website





Jennifer Hamburg

Jennifer Hamburg is a two-time Emmy-winning and three-time Emmy-nominated children’s television writer. Over her writing career, Jennifer has written for dozens of preschool television shows such as Doc McStuffins, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Super Why!, Vampirina and Cyberchase.  Her picture books include A Moose That Says Moo, Monkey and Duck Quack Up!, and Billy Bloo is Stuck in Goo. Jennifer’s middle grade book series, Hazy Bloom and the Tomorrow Power, has its third title coming out in 2019. In addition to her television and book writing, she is currently developing a preschool series for PBS. Jennifer holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology from Columbia University’s Teachers College, where she studied children’s creative and cognitive development. She lives in Houston, TX with her husband and two children.



SandraHowatt Sandra Howatt J. Howatt is the author of SLEEPYHEADS (Beach Lane/Simon and Schuster), illustrated by Joyce Wan. This debut picture book received great reviews and was nominated for the 2014 Kirkus Prize.  It was a finalist in the 2014 Writers’ League of Texas Book Awards, chosen for The Scholastic Book Club, and has recently been translated into Chinese. It will come out as a Little Simon Classic Board Book this summer.  Sandra is a past nominee for the Joan Lowery Nixon Memorial Award. A former dance educator, she has transitioned from telling stories on the stage to telling stories on the page.




Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is the author of many award-winning books for children—mostly picture books. Her stories, such as Not Norman, A Goldfish Story, Jumpstart’s 2015 Read for the Record book; Vampire Baby; Your Daddy Was Just Like You; Dance, Y’all, Dance; and One Day I Went Rambling, an Illinois Library Association’s iREAD 2018 selection, celebrate imagination, families, friends, pets… all that goes into being a kid! Kelly is a 2010 graduate of VCFA’s Writing for Children and Young Adults program, and long-standing member of SCBWI and The Author’s Guild. A former ARA for SCBWI-Houston, Kelly now divides her time between Westhampton Beach, NY and Mimiville (which is anywhere her grandboys may be!).

For more about Kelly and her books, visit her website:

And for a swimmingly good time, wade through her blog:



e-Critiques Only




Kristin Daly Rens
Balzer & Bray/HarperCollinsKristin Rens first became interested in children’s books as a career in high school, when she worked in her local public library shelving–and often covertly reading–books in the children’s room. She began her publishing career as an Editorial Assistant at Golden Books. In January 2002, she moved to HarperCollins, and in May 2008 she joined the team at Balzer + Bray, where she has been ever since. Kristin has been privileged to work with award-winning authors and illustrators such as Michelle Markel, Melissa Sweet, Crystal Allen, Jeff Garvin, and Robert Sharenow, as well as New York Times bestsellers Sara Raasch, C.J. Redwine, and Evelyn Skye. She is also working on a number of exciting new projects, including the picture book LITTLE PENGUIN STAYS AWAKE by Tadgh Bentley; the recent middle grade novel NAOMIS TOO by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich & Audrey Vernick; the YA debut THE BIRD AND THE BLADE by Megan Bannen; and the YA fantasy A FORGERY OF MAGIC by Maya Motayne. In fiction, I’m happy to look at picture books, middle grade, and YA—happy to look at any genre, really, but for novels I’d just ask that folks also send a synopsis in addition to their 10 pages. I’d also be happy to look at nonfiction picture books. 


Elizabeth Law
Holiday House
elaw@holidayhouse.comElizabeth Law is an editor at Holiday House who specializes in mining their backlist and acquiring middle grade fiction. She has worked in children’s and young adult publishing for 30 years, including most recently as publisher of Egmont USA and as a freelance book doctor and editor at ElawReads. Elizabeth was previously Associate Publisher at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and Viking Children’s Books, and has edited and published every genre from picture book through nonfiction and YA and New Adult. Some of the many authors and artists Elizabeth has worked with are Dan Gutman, Andrew Clements, Michael Grant, Tony diTerlizzi, G. Brian Karas, Holly Black and the estates of Ludwig Bemelmans and Don Freeman. Check out Elizabeth’s blog at and follow her on Twitter @Elawreads.




Saba Sulaiman
Talcott Notch Literary AgencySaba Sulaiman is an agent at Talcott Notch Literary Services, a boutique agency located in Milford, CT. She holds a BA from Wellesley College and an MA from the University of Chicago, where she studied modern Persian literature. She is looking primarily to build her Middle Grade and Young Adult lists, and is particularly interested in contemporary realistic stories. She’s also open to category romance (all sub-genres except paranormal), literary, upmarket, and commercial fiction, tightly plotted, character-driven psychological thrillers, cozy mysteries à la Agatha Christie, and memoir. Being a first generation immigrant who is constantly negotiating her own identity and sense of belonging in a place she now calls “home,” she is committed to highlighting more diverse voices with compelling stories to tell; stories that demonstrate the true range of perspectives that exist in this world, and address urgent and often underexplored issues in both fiction and non-fiction with veracity and heart. You can learn more about Saba on her website or follow her on




Annie Nybo
Albert WhitmanAnnie Nybo is an Editor at Albert Whitman & Company, and has worked at Simon & Schuster and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She’s been honored to work with many talented creators such as Catherynne M. Valente, Jason Gallaher, Patrick Weekes, Susan Cooper, William Alexander, and Hilary McKay. When not reading, Annie plays video games and embroiders—sometimes at the same time.(takes all genres, PB through YA, fiction and NF)





Talia Benamy
Philomel/Penguin Random House

Talia Benamy, Assistant Editor, Philomel Books is interested in picture books, middle grade, and YA. She is actively looking for realistic contemporary fiction, historical fiction, and nonfiction for all ages. Talia looks for books that inspire kids to understand the world around them and their ability to impact it, as well as books that make readers both think and laugh. In addition, finding positive Jewish content for children is high on her wishlist.


Steven Salpeter
Literary Agent/ Curtis Brown Literary Agency

Steven Salpeter is a literary agent at Curtis Brown, Ltd. A graduate of the University of Florida, Steven edited Tea and founded the Palmetto Prize for Fiction. He began his publishing career at Writers House and Brandt & Hochman before moving to Curtis Brown to assist Mitchell Waters and help Timothy Knowlton manage many of the agency’s venerable estate clients, including W. H. Auden, Stanley Ellin, John Knowles, Alfred Lansing, and Ayn Rand, among other bestsellers and literary award winners. He is now actively building his list, seeking literary fiction, fantasy, graphic novels, historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers, young adult, and authors who can blend elements of these genres. Steven is also interested in narrative nonfiction, gift books, history, humor, and popular science. He lives in New York City.